Conquest of happiness — Bertrand Russell

The causes of unhappiness:

  • Competition
  • Boredom and Excitement
  • Fatigue
  • Envy
  • The sense of sin
  • Persecution mania

There are four maxims, which will prove an adequate preventive of persecution mania if their truth is sufficiently realized:

  1. Remember that your motives are not always as altruistic as they seem to yourself

2. Don’t overestimate your own merits

3. Don’t expect others to take as much interest in you as you do yourself

4. Don’t imagine that most people give enough thought to you to have any desire to persecute you

  • Fear of public opinion

Causes of happiness:

  • Zest
  • Affection
  • Family
  • Work
  • Impersonal Interests
  • Effort and Resignation

The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.

The man who underestimates himself is perpetually being surprised by success, whereas the man who overestimates himself is just as often surprised by failure. The former kind of surprise is pleasant, the latter unpleasant. It is therefore wise to be not unduly conceited, though also not too modest to be enterprising.

Of the more highly educated sections of the community, the happiest in the present day are the men of science. Many of the most eminent of them are emotionally simple, and obtain from their work a satisfaction so profound that they can derive pleasure from eating, and even marrying. Artists and literary men consider it de rigueur to be unhappy in their marriages, but men of science quite frequently remain capable of old fashioned domestic bliss. The reason of this is that the higher parts of their intelligence are wholly absorbed by their work and are not allowed to intrude into regions where they have no functions to perform.

If your child is ill, you may be unhappy, but you will not feel that all is vanity, you will feel that the restoring of the child to health is a matter to be attended to regardless of the question whether there is ultimate value in human life or not. A rich man may, and often does, feel that all is vanity, but if he should happen to lose his money, he would feel that his next meal was by no means vanity. The feeling is one born of a too easy satisfaction of natural needs. The human animal, like others, is adapted to a certain amount of struggle for life, and when by means of great wealth homo sapiens can gratify all his whims without effort, the mere absence of effort from his life removes an essential ingredient of happiness. The man who acquires easily things for which he feels only a very moderate desire concludes that the attainment of desire does not bring happiness. If he is of a philosophic disposition, he concludes that human life is essentially wretched, since the man who has all he wants is still unhappy. He forgets that to be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.